In a Tuesday night election forum, candidates for legislative seats representing Juneau generally said they were in favor of state protections for abortion rights if the newly modified U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
The candidates were prompted for their positions by a question from a member of the audience. The forum was hosted by the Empire, KTOO, Juneau Votes! and the League of Women Voters of Juneau.
For Senate District Q, which covers northern Southeast including Juneau, Democratic candidate Jesse Kiehl said he would “absolutely and unequivocally” be in favor of state protections for abortion rights if federal protections disappear.
He said that Alaska’s constitutional right to privacy would likely protect a woman’s right to have an abortion. That view has been repeatedly espoused by the Alaska Supreme Court, which has struck down laws limiting abortions for pregnant minors.
Kiehl said “there’s a real equality issue” in limiting abortions, and “a woman’s decision on whether or not to become a parent has to be her own, if she’s to be an equal person under the law.”
Don Etheridge, the independent nonpartisan candidate opposing Kiehl’s election, was noncommital about his support for state-level protections.
“I think there’s a lot of questions that have to be answered yet on that issue,” he said, adding that it isn’t clear what a U.S. Supreme Court ruling might look like.
He said any restrictions on abortion rights would pose significant problems for the state.
“What are we going to do with all the unwanted children?” he said. “We can’t take care of the unwanted children we have now.”
Both candidates for House District 33, which includes Douglas, downtown Juneau, Haines, Skagway, Gustavus and Klukwan — Chris Dimond and Sara Hannan — said they would support state-level abortion rights.
Dimond, the independent candidate for the district, said he has two daughters and a wife, and he doesn’t believe anyone should come between them and their doctor.
“That is her personal business,” he said. “That doesn’t mean I support abortion, but that is not my business or anybody else’s.”
Hannan, the Democratic candidate, said she “absolutely” supports state-level protections but believes the state must go further and provide equal access to health care and birth control as well. Hannan, who supports a state solution to health care, said access is currently limited by financial means, and poorer Alaskans don’t always have access to birth control or health care in general.
In House District 34, which covers the Mendenhall Valley and airport, Democratic candidate Andi Story said she also believes the state’s privacy laws already address the issue.
“Our Alaska Constitution has very strict privacy laws, and that would be a decision made between a woman and her doctor, and I support that wholeheartedly,” she said.
Republican candidate Jerry Nankervis said he does not believe Roe v. Wade will be overturned, and he doesn’t think it will become an issue.
“I’m not understanding all the fretting over whether that will or won’t happen,” he said.
• Contact reporter James Brooks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2258.